Always help others…no matter what!

Always help others…no matter what!

Summer has officially been over for a month and it has taken me this long to sit down and write about someone that touched my heart when I was volunteering one evening in August.  I was volunteering at my alma mater because I love to help welcome the students back to campus.  It was a casual evening where I helped give directions to students, greet students, and welcome them during a “Back to Campus” event.  It was simple and easy to do.  I didn’t feel like I had done much other than say hi and welcome back to students.  As I was walking around at the very end of the night I came upon a student that was walking home after the event.  I walked by as I was browsing my phone and then circled back because there was something about the student that concerned me.  He had a physical handicap that made walking very difficult.  He was also staring at his phone with a confused look upon his face as if he needed something.  I could tell he was struggling so I asked if he needed help.  He said, “I am trying to figure out what direction to go to get back to the dorms.”  I explained the location of the dorms, but also wanted to make sure he could get to a bus because walking was very difficult for him.  It made me realize how much I take walking for granted.

He seemed very grateful for the help.  I actually wasn’t sure if the buses were running on their normal bus schedule so I went to verify it with campus staff to be sure he was able to get to where he needed to go.  He got the directions he needed to get to the bus stop and that was something that made me realize how important it is to offer help.  I came across this young student at just the right time to assist him with getting back to the dorms safely.

Not only did he remind me of the importance of helping others and being present rather than browsing on my phone, but he also forced me to think about how much I take my legs and feet for granted.  That student had a permanent handicap that prevented him from walking at a steady pace or maintaining quality balance.  It’s something that many of us take for granted on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.  Next time you see someone who may need help, may be handicapped, or may need guidance I implore you to do the right thing.  It’s too easy to look down, look at your phone, stare, or just simply not want to get involved with others, but that’s not the right thing to do.  We are meant to be kind and help other people.  There’s a reason why we should be kind – that reason is often to help someone else, inspire someone else, or make the lives of those around us better.  After all, you will find more purpose and meaning when you give back and help others than you will in any other facet of your life.

~jj

How I judged someone…

How I judged someone…

This is a perfect subject as we begin another new school year.  It is a great topic to discuss and bring awareness to how we can all be a little less judge-y about others.   I’ve been taking several college classes over the last four to five years in different fields and for different reasons, but mainly because I love learning.  There were a few classes I was dreading, but not because I was worried about the work.  Remember, I love learning and part of learning is doing assignments and activities that broaden our experiences.  I was dreading it because I was worried about the professor.  I had encountered this particular professor at a local organizational meeting that I attended one evening and she seemed to be very rigid, almost grumpy.  She wasn’t overly friendly or bubbly, in fact, she wasn’t really friendly at all.  I knew she taught two of the classes I was interested in, so I would have her as a professor and that really worried me.

This is when the story changes just a bit.  I took the plunge and signed up for those classes.  I decided it was time to face the worry that I was feeling and get through those classes that I wanted to take.   This is the part where you learn that I had completely prejudged that professor.  She was a phenomenal professor that had the class organized very efficiently.  After taking her two classes, I realized how pathetic it was that I even considered letting my initial judgment of her impact taking those classes.  She could have had a difficult day when I met her that evening, she could have been facing a battle I knew nothing about, or she might just have a personality that is different than what I thought it should be as a professor.  She isn’t required to be bubbly or overly friendly and I can assure you that her teaching style is drastically different from her everyday personality.  She may not like going to meetings or she may feel awkward in social situations.  Whatever it was, it didn’t even matter.  It wasn’t important.  And it was a wonderful learning lesson for me.  I was reminded that my judge-y self needed to take a step back and realize that each person’s personality is unique and should not be judged.  Not now, not ever.

And so the complete irony of the situation is not only was I reminded to be less judgmental, BUT I also loved her two classes!  She helped me grow throughout those two classes and made me view and look at things in different ways.  And for that, I am very thankful.  So with this blog, I challenge you to remember that there is no need to judge others…we can always let others do their own thing because we all walk different paths and lead different lives. 🙂

~jj

Making ‘thank you’ your regular reality.

Making ‘thank you’ your regular reality.

The last week of school I wanted my students to be extremely comfortable with the concepts and topics that we had covered over the 18 week semester.  Further, it was important to me that the students could look beyond the test and the multiple choice questions.  I really hoped that they could apply the information on taxes, checking and savings accounts, and renting an apartment after graduating high school.  Midway through the week, I had a rather shy student come up to me and in the most genuine voice say, “Thank you so much for reviewing with us this week, Mrs. Jamieson.  I really appreciate all the time you have spent to do this.”  It was a simple gesture, but meant a lot that he chose to say that.  A simple thank you really is as easy as that!

My first year of teaching at my current school I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants during parts of the semester.  I started in the middle of the year and had very little prep time to get a classroom ready and activities prepared for class.  I remember toward the end of the semester receiving a card in my mailbox.  I opened that card to find a thank you note written from one of my students.  He was thanking me for being his teacher.  He wanted me to know that he thought I was doing a great job.  It meant a lot to me to receive that note.  I felt so lucky to have such a genuinely kind and appreciative student.  And, to this day, I still have that note.

While those thank yous really inspire me and give new perspective, sending and giving thank yous is what really makes my heart happy.  I love seeing others when they feel appreciated or surprised by a gesture of kindness.  I recently went to a conference that had a small team that worked extremely hard to plan meaningful sessions.  I could tell they worked long hours and had planned for months upon months.  I sent a personal thank you card to each person on that team to show my genuine appreciation for the work they had done.  So often we attend large events, galas, conferences, or fundraisers that caused a group (often small) to work their butts off to make it a phenomenal time for others.  It is usually nice for someone to acknowledge their work and the time they spent to execute it.

Recently, I had a friend who was getting ready to leave the school I am at to start a new adventure.  We were not close friends, in fact, I only knew him on a small level.  Before he went back to his city life, I wanted him to know how much I appreciated meeting him and having him as an aide for the very short time that we worked together.  He was delightfully surprised by the thank you, which is one of the best ways to thank someone!  Lastly, I chose to take bagels and cream cheese from Panera to an office where I do a very small amount of contractual work.  It’s a small group of very hard working individuals who are very kind and friendly toward me.  I randomly thought it would be fun to surprise them to let them know that I see how hard they work each day.  I got there with the bagels in hand and they were thrilled.  The director came to me and said, “We have never had someone do something like that for us.”   So, next time you have the chance to do something small, or to do something big, just do something to show appreciation and to thank others.

I hope these stories inspire you, motivate you, and cause you to surprise others with cards, food, or other ways that show appreciation for what they do.  Let’s make sure that thank you is a always a reality.  It will change your day by making the day of those around you better!

~jj

Life is just a ride…you must keep pedaling!

Life is just a ride…you must keep pedaling!

It’s May and that means school is almost out.  I did a podcast at the beginning of the month with a very cool person that found me via Twitter.  His name is Chad Smart and he is the host of Positive Cynicism.  Check him out at jitterymonkey.com and listen to his motivational and fun podcasts.  Here’s a link to hear the one he allowed me to participate in: http://jitterymonkey.com/positive-cynicism-42-question-everything-jenna-jamieson/

I also did some volunteering this month because it’s kind of my hobby.  A hobby that I allow to take over my ‘normal’ life on occasion.  I volunteered at SIU’s graduation for probably my 10th time or more.   It was a simple gesture to help others out and give back to my community.  It’s important to recognize the impact volunteering can have in your local community.  With all the ways to make a difference, to give back to organizations, and to help others in need, volunteering can be one of the most simple ways to do that.  Not only does it help your community and people in it, but beyond that it gives you a sense of purpose.  That is at the core of finding and achieving pure happiness – finding genuine purpose that can give your life meaning.  I challenge you to add more volunteering to your life where you get nothing in return, not something you do at your job or at your church, or as part of a club you are in, but pure volunteering with no sub-lining or sub-benefit.  Volunteering where you give your time away for free and get nothing in return.  It will give you purpose – specifically, a purpose you have probably never felt before.

~jj

Giving love and support to those that need it most!

Giving love and support to those that need it most!

I have had an extremely tough semester for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because I have students that truly and desperately need support and guidance.  The mixture of high school students I have has made teaching exceptionally difficult and left me grasping for ways to efficiently teach consumer education to a range of students whose learning levels range from elementary to college.  The learning differentiation isn’t my only obstacle, though!  The students I am teaching have a large range of lifestyles and home environments that impact how they view education, their ability to work outside of school, and how much support they receive at home.  This is the reality for so many teachers and I  know I am not the exception.

Combine my class concerns with some of the school dynamics I have faced including not having a classroom – wheeling around a cart to four different rooms throughout the day to teach has been a chaotic, mountain-climbing adventure.  To add to the mountain, I had some students going through some major life struggles which included me assisting with several emotionally and mentally draining situations that has left me feeling unsettled on more than one occasion.  Additionally, I teach in some classrooms with computers and in other classrooms with no computers which creates another level of structured chaos when it comes to planning lessons, adding another piece to my puzzle that I have to carefully put together.

BUT, there is a silver lining and there actually always is one no matter what the situation is!  My students may show a long list of emotions in the classroom because of their diverse backgrounds that range from anger, happiness, sadness, frustration, bitterness, humor, fun, and every emotion in between.  Each with a unique personality and style, but many of them with their own baggage, their own insecurities, their own challenges and successes, and most of all their own story.  A story that is sometimes broken, sometimes not broken, and sometimes underdeveloped.  I sometimes feel an overwhelming amount of chaos when there is a group of such a variety in my hands because it makes for a very stressful semester, but these are the students that need love, guidance, and support the most.  I became their teacher for a reason and that’s just the reason.  To provide that support, guidance, and nurturing that they so desperately need.  While it hasn’t been easy and I won’t even pretend that it has, it has been meaningful to be able to recognize and understand that my role is to nurture, comfort, and give to these students the support, guidance, and appreciation that they so need at such a crucial time in their lives.  And, no matter what there is definitely some learning happening…some learning from me, some learning from each other, sometimes the students teaching me, but more than anything some much needed nurturing, guidance, and support.

~jj

Change the life of cancer patients!

Change the life of cancer patients!

It may seem expensive, unrealistic, or even hard to change the life of others without having lots of disposable income.  It’s true that some things cost money when it comes to giving back.  Buying cookies and sweets for the local police and fire departments costs money, buying surprise cards or gifts for strangers costs a little money (though, not much), but some things cost nothing.  Writing a note to a veteran and placing it on their windshield, complimenting a stranger, answering questions for those that are lost, or donating hair to help cancer patients doesn’t really cost anything.

I traded places with a woman in the post office recently who was running late to babysit.  It didn’t cost me anything but a few minutes of time and it brightened her day more than you might have imagined.  A week or so later there was a couple in a metered parking lot who were getting ready to put change in the meter, but couldn’t figure out how much, but I yelled across the lot and said you don’t have to pay on Sundays.  They were grateful for the response and it was a simple gesture for me to save them the time and money.

This past week I did one more thing that I hold particularly close to my heart.  I donated 9 inches of hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.  This makes 39 total inches donated so far to help change the lives of total strangers who are battling cancer.  Who wouldn’t want to change the life of a cancer patient if they could?  It’s simple yet means the world to someone else.  I have watched several women I know battle cancer, making it a particular cause that’s important to me.  A cause my grandpa would be equally proud of as he watches from heaven, looking down and asking me, “Did you use Pantene Pro-V?” as he used to do as he admired my shiny, black hair.

I hope these short stories inspire you to make a difference, big or small, in your community, city, and in the world around you.  Go change the life of someone else, specifically a stranger in need of care, support, and kindness.  After all, it’s often strangers that are often facing more battles than we often even realize.

~jj

Reach out and touch a heart!

Reach out and touch a heart!

A day is often filled with lots of stressors, usually things that make life a bit chaotic, but there are so many little moments in-between that make life amazing and worth all those exhausting and stressful moments.  As a teacher, I love the little things that make my students smile, laugh, and allow me to see a different side of them or witness them in a different light, even for just a minute or two.

I am like any tired teacher, CEO, janitor, parent, customer service representative, lawyer, doctor, etc because I am often overwhelmed by my post-it note reminders and to-do lists.  I have had some tough days lately filled with anxiety, tears, and even questioning what I am doing as a teacher.  I had a few patches with several complex situations (actually, three specific stressors) that made my life feel like it was spinning in circles.

During those spinning circles, there were two students that made an impact on my life.  One student who had been struggling recently came to me and asked if I could help her with finding a job.  As a Business Teacher, I was thrilled to be able to offer her assistance and that she showed such motivation by coming in after school to get help.  I answered her questions and assisted with a resume.  She was thrilled by the small amount of help that I had offered.  The next day she came in very excited to tell me that she had an interview coming up.  It was actually one of the first times I had seen her smile and saw such emotion in her personality.  I was very excited for her.  I congratulated her and told her I wanted updates on the job (basically so that I could cheer her on along the way as she started this new adventure).

This next young lady asked the most simple question, but it left a smile upon my face.  She is a quiet student and I really haven’t gotten to know her that well since it’s a new semester.  She’s always been very respectful and honest, but I could never tell whether she likes my class, hates my class, or just tolerates it since it’s her consumer education credit.  She came up to me at the end of class and in the most innocent and sweet voice she said, “I applied for a job, Mrs. Jamieson.”  I said, “That’s great, I hope you get it!”  She followed that with, “I did the online application, but I have this feeling that I should call or do something else, but I don’t even know what I would even say.”  I was impressed with her admission and how candid she was with me.  After all, I didn’t realize she trusted me or felt comfortable in my class yet (mostly because she’s quiet).  I said, “I would actually go to the place you applied and tell them you submitted an online application.  Explain to them that you wanted to confirm that they received it and hope they contact you soon to discuss the position.”  I explained to her that this gives the employer a chance to see her and it may set her apart from other applicants that don’t follow through after they submit the application.  She told me she felt relieved about what would come next.  She smiled and as she left, I said, “You know this means you have to keep me posted on your job prospects and how it goes!”

What’s the point of these two stories?  It’s quite simple.  Reach out and help others, touch their heart and in turn it will touch yours.  These young ladies did just as much, if not more, for me as I did for them.

~jrpj

Backpacks: Here, There, & Everywhere!

Backpacks: Here, There, & Everywhere!

It’s February!  For most, that means more winter weather (and maybe some snow!), hearts, pink and red, Valentine’s Day, heart health awareness month (Go Red) and all the other stuff in between.  For me, it means backpacks, and lots of them, at school, at my house, at community dropboxes…basically, here, there, and everywhere!  This is because February is the month I partner with Circle K of SIU and coordinate a backpack drive for my school and the local Boys and Girls Club.  I collect gently used and new backpacks to provide for students that cannot afford them.

Circle K is a branch of Kiwanis International which is under the same umbrella as Key Club, a club that is often a student organization in high schools, including the one I teach at.  I remember being an active Key Club member in high school.  I loved the community projects Key Club helped with and the volunteer work that came along with it.  This is why I feel especially happy to partner with this Registered Student Organization (RSO) at my local university.

Here’s a chance for you to declutter your house and free up some space: Donate any new or gently used backpacks, duffle bags, and totes to my Backpacks for Success project.  You can find locations at the SIU Student Services Building, SIU Morris Library, SIU Student Center, and the Neighborhood Co-Op.

With your help and the support of many others I have been able to see firsthand what a difference these backpacks make in the lives of students.  Many of them have heavy books to carry and cannot afford the expense that comes along with buying a backpack, plus it’s something their family is unable to fulfill for them.  This is why it is my hope to help provide to those that need backpacks so that they have the basic necessities to be successful in school.  It touches my heart to see so many who are willing to change the lives of students and the world’s future generations by donating a backpack.  With each backpack, we are changing a life, and with that change we are making it possible for a child to feel more prepared and successful in their school environment.  Thanks to all who donate – please spread the love by sharing this post!

~jj

The #1 NYE Resolution!

The #1 NYE Resolution!

There are lots of resolutions to be made and goals to be set as we head into another New Years Eve.  As you add a new diet to your list, new health and nutrition goals, weight loss, less sugar, and the countless other resolutions, I hope kindness is at the very top for each and every person.  It’s what keeps the world going!  It will give you more purpose, meaning, and happiness than any other goal on your list.  I promise you this, and my book, Giving Back: Lessons from an adopted immigrant on why a happy life is about helping others will affirm why this is true.

As I wrap up 2017, I am thankful for the trip to the nation’s capitol that my husband and I just embarked on.  While there, I was reminded once again why I find travel to be so therapeutic.  The melting pot of people and cultures was lovely, but more than that, the ability to provide guidance and help to them was at the heart of the trip.  My husband and I gave directions to several in DC (while we were ‘tourists’ ourselves it never fails that we get asked how to get somewhere, even when we were in Ireland!).  We also helped someone off the ground who fell at one of the monuments.  What was even sweeter is when my husband said, “I did the same thing earlier today” to make the young twenty-something feel better.

Lastly, as we traveled home we got behind a very slow person in the security line at the airport.  It was a mother with a young child who didn’t put her stuff through the scanner.  The security personnel instructed her to do so and we continued on our way.  Later, I ended up sitting next to her on the plane.  The little girl she had was absolutely a doll.  I lipped to her “Hi” and in the most bubbly little voice she said “Hi” back.  While the mother was between us, the little girl liked to observe me discreetly.  I eventually lended a hand to the mother who was giving the little girl her lunch by throwing her trash away and providing extra napkins for a small spill that occurred.  After all, it can be overwhelming and stressful when you are traveling alone with a small child.  She said back to me, “Thank you so much.”  It wasn’t more than a minute or two later when she looked at me again and said, “That was so kind of you” (after throwing her trash away).  These are the resolutions I hope we are all making for 2018 – to be kind to one another, help one another, and give back to those around us.  Cheers to much happiness and good health next year and LOTS OF KINDNESS!

While Christmas, New Year’s, and the holidays will soon be over until next year, kindness and giving back throughout the year should be resolutions for all.

~jj

An open letter about kindness!

An open letter about kindness!

I just celebrated my 30th birthday a little over a month ago.  It’s always an exciting time to celebrate my birthday, not because I get gifts or eat my favorite local pizza, but because it starts a new year of random acts of kindness.  It’s a new year of pledging to do a minimum of 30 different surprises of giving back, helping others, and spreading more kindness out into the world.  The world has enough craziness, chaos, and uncertainty in it that every little bit of kindness helps.

My ultimate dream through my random acts of kindness is to be the person on Ellen that gets to surprise a deserving family or person of something extraordinary that will change their life – notifying someone they will be able to provide presents for their kids on Christmas, a new car that allows them to get to work safely, helping a college student pay for tuition who may not otherwise have the opportunity, supporting a food drive or coat drive, etc.  My favorite acts of kindness are the random ones to strangers and people I barely know.

So, one day I hope to be that person that can spend an entire day(s) or hour(s) surprising others with things that will change their life.  After all, when you spread kindness and give back you are changing the world one good deed at a time.  Keep that in mind today and every day, not just around the holiday season, on #GivingTuesday, #SmallBusinessSaturday, or during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And, remember to join me on the #ProjectKindnessBook pledge and follow my Project Kindness by using your birthday as the minimum number of times you give back, help others, and spread kindness throughout the year. Use #ProjectKindnessBook in your post to show you have made the commitment to making a difference in the lives of others and changing the world around you.

Simple and easy ideas include leaving a note for a veteran, baking cookies for your local police or fire department, reaching out and thanking your child’s teacher, leaving a large tip for a server, buying someone’s coffee or meal, and donating food and coats throughout the year.  My high school students created cards for veterans, the elderly, and sick children this week to celebrate others.  This small project helps the students see how their gesture can change the life of someone else.  Keep spreading cheer and kindness…it’s the best gift you can give during the holiday season and every day throughout the year!

~jj

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